South Asian Seminar of the Communist and Left Parties

R Arun Kumar

THE 21st Congress of the CPI(M) had taken a decision to befittingly commemorate the centenary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. Accordingly, the Central Committee had planned various activities throughout the year, with a special emphasis on the ideological development of the Party cadre. As a part of these efforts, the CC had decided to organise a seminar of the Communist and Left parties of the South Asian Region on September 23-24, in Kochi.

The theme of the seminar, ‘Imperialism, National Sovereignty and Communalism in South Asia’ was chosen to reflect the contemporary challenges before the people of this region. Eight parties were invited from four countries to participate in the seminar. Unfortunately, due to visa restrictions imposed by the central government, participants from Pakistan were unable to participate in the seminar, but the Communist Party of Pakistan had sent its paper which was circulated. The parties which were invited to the Seminar were: Communist Party of Bangladesh and Workers’ Party of Bangladesh from Bangladesh; Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) from Nepal; Communist Party of Pakistan and Awami Workers Party from Pakistan and Communist Party of Sri Lanka and Janata Vimukti Perumana from Sri Lanka. From our country, the Communist Party of India participated in the seminar, along with the CPI(M).

The seminar was inaugurated by Sitaram Yechury, CPI(M) general secretary,  in an open session. Pinarayi Vijayan, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M) presided over the inaugural session, while Kodiyeri Balakrishnan, Polit Bureau member and chairman of the reception committee welcomed the participants. S Sudhakar Reddy, CPI general secretary was present on the dais and a copy of his intervention was circulated as he couldn’t stay for the second day of the seminar.

Kodiyeri Balakrishnan welcomed the participants to Kochi and Kerala, the land of great working class actions and peasant struggles. Kerala is the first state in the entire world where a communist government had come to office through elections in 1957. This government had to its credit, implemented various important socio-economic reforms in the state, including land reforms.

Pinarayi Vijayan, in his presidential address talked about the role of communists in taking forward the social reform movement and leading the struggle against feudal oppression. He recalled the common heritage of the people of South Asia – their struggle against colonial rulers – and also the common challenges confronting them today. Religious sectarianism is one of the dangerous problems that has to be fought back, by building the unity of all the toiling people. He also mentioned the increasing attacks on human rights, specifically of those belonging to the minority community. Alienation from land, repeatedly doubting the nationality and patriotism of minorities are other important issues that are confronting the people of our region. He called for building regional solidarities among the people of the region to counter the neoliberal attacks and also that of the sectarian forces.

Sitaram Yechury, in his inaugural address reiterated the abiding relevance of the Great October Socialist Revolution and its contributions to the advancement of human civilisation. Taking the example of October Revolution, he underlined the importance of Lenin’s development and application of Marxist theory to the concrete conditions in Russia. It is this analysis that led Lenin to identify imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism and conclude that capitalism can be overthrown, by breaking the imperialist chain at its weakest link. The worker-peasant unity advocated by Lenin and his analysis of the colonial question had inspired many, including Ho Chi Minh in formulating correct tactics during their anti-colonial struggle.

In the current phase of imperialist globalisation, where neo-liberal offensive is leading to humongous accumulation and concentration of capital, Yechury stressed, it is important for the communist and Left parties to understand this process and lead the people in struggle against exploitation. Finance capital uses military, political and economic coercion to prise open the markets of the whole world for its exploitation. The only real resistance to this exploitation is put up by the communists. It is for this reason, the ruling classes target the communists and other Left forces and try to weaken the popular protests led by them, by promoting religious sectarian, fundamentalist and extremist forces. He said, these forces can be countered only when the ‘subjective factor’ of the revolutionary struggle, i.e., the strength of the class unity in struggle of all exploited sections of the people for liberation and emancipation, under the leadership of the working class, is strengthened and consolidated.

The seminar was divided into four working sessions, where the participating parties presented their views on the theme. Sufficient time was allocated for an interactive discussion, which helped in a better understanding of the points made during the presentations.

In the first session, presided by Md Salim, Polit Bureau member of the CPI(M), the presidium member of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Shaheen Rahman, presented the paper. He was joined by Rashid Khan Menon, president of the Workers’ Party of Bangladesh.

Rahman in his presentation, talked about the spread of imperialist influence in the world and South Asian region in particular. He also illustrated how imperialism is using religious fundamentalists and sectarian forces as its allies, by funding them and nurturing them. This alliance tries to impose its tyranny of backward/medieval culture and practices on people and stands for interests, which are opposed to the interests of the working and middle classes and the poor peasantry. He concluded by reiterating that only a party guided by Marxism-Leninism can defeat imperialism and religious fundamentalist forces by mobilising working class and peasantry.

Rashid Khan Menon, presenting his party’s views on the subject stated that though the basic feature of imperialism remains the same as defined by Lenin, there have been major changes in its structure and mode of operation. The religious rightist forces are being used as tools and ideological weapons of the ruling class to divert people from progressive and revolutionary struggle and these two forces are so integrated and interrelated that the fight against the imperialist forces has been intermingled with the fight against the fundamentalism. He traced the history of the growth of religious sectarian forces in Bangladesh and the South Asian region and how they were helped by the ruling classes.

Both the participants brought to notice of the house, the plight of Rohingyas who were forced to move out by the Myanmar government. Their presentation was followed by an intense discussion on the issue of Rohingya’s and all the participants expressed their concern. It was opined that there should be a separate resolution passed on behalf of the seminar on this issue. Accordingly, a resolution was moved and adopted on the next day. (Full text is published separately)

The second session was presided by Prakash Karat, Polit Bureau Member of CPI(M), in which the Communist Party of Sri Lanka (CPSL) and Janata Vimukti Perumana (JVP) of Sri Lanka presented their papers.

Premadara Dissanayake, Polit Bureau member of the CPSL talked about the impact of October Revolution on Sri Lanka and how it had helped in the spread of Marxist ideas. Talking about the present political context, he mentioned national unity as a main problem of their country. The thirty years war and the failure to attain unity had its adverse affect on building the unity of working class and peasantry. He said the country is presently facing triple crisis and the government is unable to deal with it, sharpening the contradictions between the ruling classes and people. He said building the Left Democratic Alternative is an immediate task before them.

Bimal Rathnayake, Polit Bureau member of the JVP, in his presentation dealt extensively about the national question. He stated that their party has evolved its understanding of the nationality question, learning from the experiences of the Soviet Union. Dealing with the present political situation in the country, he said that process of drafting a new constitution is almost completed in their country and it will be placed before the people for acceptance through a referendum. The JVP is now supporting the 13th Amendment of the existing constitution, which deals with the devolution of powers and is now retained in the new constitution too.

A healthy discussion followed on both these presentations focusing on the issue of devolution of powers, the situation after the prolonged war and the condition of Tamils. Many had welcomed the change in the stance of the JVP and wanted to know more about it. Similarly, questions were posed on how imperialism is trying to intervene in Sri Lanka.

In the third working session, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist-Centre) presented their papers. P K Srimathi, Central Committee member of the CPI(M) presided over this session.

Surendra Prasad Pande, Standing Committee member of CPN (UML) stated that imperialism is spreading illusions among the people and exploiting them. He said the need of the hour is to face imperialist and capitalist forces in a more organised and planned manner. He brought to the notice of the participants the constitutional drafting process in Nepal and the features incorporated in the new constitution. The Left parties he hoped would emerge as the dominant political force in the upcoming elections to the state and national legislatures.

Ram Partha Kirki, senior leader of the CPN (M) presenting his party’s views, talked about how imperialist forces are trying to influence the political process in Nepal. Religious sectarian forces are aided by foreign countries to sabotage the transformation of Nepal into a secular, democratic republic, for which the people had waged a militant struggle. Nepal’s sovereignty can only be protected if people are mobilised to oppose the political and economic interference.

The discussion that followed focused on the constitution of Nepal and how the people have received it. Participants sought to know the experiences of the two parties, who were ruling the country at different points of time. The relations between the hill and ‘plains people’ and the resultant tensions, influence of the Hindutva forces, the activities of the monarchist forces have also come up for discussion.

The last working session was presided by S Ramachandran Pillai, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and papers were presented by D Raja, national secretary of CPI and M A Baby, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member.

D Raja spoke about the impact of October Revolution on India, the foundation of communist party in India and also its influence on freedom fighters. He recalled the assistance rendered by the Soviet Union for the development of Indian educational institutions and also public sector enterprises. The collapse of Soviet Union had an adverse impact on the country and resulted in the embrace of neoliberal policies. The country is facing a grave threat from religious sectarian forces, which needs to be countered by building a unity of all secular, democratic forces, he opined.

M A Baby, presenting the views of the CPI(M), highlighted the growing proximity between India and US, both in economic ties and also through various defence agreements. He also traced the link between the implementation of neoliberal policies from the 1990s and the growth of Hindutva forces represented by the RSS/BJP combine. Imperialism is concentrating on South Asian region because of the huge presence of natural and human resources, which can be exploited for its cheap labour and markets. The struggle against imperialism is linked with the struggle for a better life. He also detailed the growing attacks on minorities, the attacks on freedom of expression and other democratic rights. He brought to the notice the political tactical line adopted in the 21st Congress of the CPI(M), wherein it was decided to link the struggle against Hindutva forces with the struggle against neoliberal policies.

The discussion that followed focused on the growth of communal forces in India, their impact on various neighbouring countries, the impact of changing nature of Indian foreign policy in the region and the experiences of building resistance to these policies.

In the concluding session, a declaration was adopted calling for further strengthening of relations between the participating parties (Full text is published separately).

An impressive march of Red Shirt volunteers brought to an end the two-day seminar, which all the participants unanimously accepted was fruitful and hugely successful. In the public meeting presided by  Kodiyeri Balakrishnan that followed the march, Pinarayi Vijayan and Sitaram Yechury spoke about the relevance of October Revolution, the challenges confronting Indian polity today and the need to strengthen class struggles in the coming days. M A Baby explained about the deliberations of the seminar.

 


South Asian Seminar of the Communist and Left Parties

 

Declaration

We, the participants of the South Asian Regional Seminar on Imperialism, National Sovereignty, Communalism and Religious Sectarianism in South Asia organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) in Kochi, Kerala, India, representing the Communist Party of Bangladesh, Workers’ Party of Bangladesh, Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninst), Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists-Centre), Communist Party of Sri Lanka, Janata Vimukti Perumana, Sri Lanka, Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist), hail the Great October Socialist Revolution which is an epochal event in the entire human history as it had, for the first time, led to the establishment of a socialist society, a society free of exploitation.

The achievements of socialism in all fields of human endeavour – science, education, health, culture, sports and literature are unparalleled. It had inspired many anti-colonial struggles across the world. It is an undeniable fact that it is the socialist USSR that played a pivotal role in the defeat of fascism. In the process, sacrifices of the people of USSR can never be forgotten or erased from history.

The collapse of socialist bloc in the USSR and East European countries negates neither Marxism-Leninism nor the ideal of socialism. Further, these reverses cannot erase the fact that socialism made a decisive contribution in uplifting the levels of quality of human life and civilization to hitherto unknown higher levels. These contributions continue to remain relevant even to this day and inspire millions of people.

The shift in balance of forces in favour of imperialism after the collapse of Soviet Union had led to increased attacks on the sovereignty of many developing countries. Finance capital led neoliberal policies are riding roughshod over the livelihoods of the people in their quest for gaining control over natural resources and markets. In this pursuit, South Asia, with its rich natural and huge human resources has become an important target.

People’s rising discontent against the neoliberal offensive is reflected in the protests.

The ruling classes are trying to divert this brewing discontent through encouraging and patronising divisive, communal, fundamentalist and sectarian forces. These forces are not only engaged in dividing the societies on narrow, parochial considerations, but are also trying to break the class unity of the working people.

It is in this situation, all of our parties gathered here resolve:

·                    to expose and strengthen resistance against imperialist offensive

·                    to strengthen our struggles against the exploitative policies of the ruling classes and for socialism

·                    to resist the attempts of fundamentalist, communal and sectarian forces of various varieties that are sharpening social polarisations and dividing the society

·                    to work for the unity of all working and toiling people

·                    that internal affairs of any country is the sovereign right of the people of that country and no external interference can be allowed and

·                    to exchange our organisational experiences.

For achieving these objectives we will strive to increase the coordination between our various parties through regular exchange of opinions and views and work for strengthening the fraternal bonds of friendship between the peoples’ of all our countries.

 

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